WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a slew of other Republicans called on Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama to “step aside” if new allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl — in 1979, when he was 32 — are true.
Less than an hour after the Washington Post’s bombshell report, Republicans were disavowing Moore, who ran as an outsider and defeated the more establishment Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., in a recent primary. The special election to fill the seat, previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is scheduled for Dec. 12.
“If these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside for all the obvious reasons — very disturbing allegations,” McConnell told reporters.
The Post story is based on an account by a woman named Leigh Corfman, now 53. According to the story, she supports Republicans and voted for Donald Trump last year.
McConnell and other Republicans did not specify what would convince them that the allegations are true.
Three other women accused Moore of pursuing them, according to the Post. All four were quoted under their full names by the newspaper, and other witnesses confirmed they shared their stories with them at the time.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican who recently endorsed Moore, said the conduct described in the story was “deeply disturbing and troubling.” He said the “next steps” for the race are up to the governor of Alabama and its people.
Asked whether Moore should represent his state, Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, replied: “I supported Senator Strange — you all know that.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the report “horrifying.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., released a statement calling upon Moore to step down immediately.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” McCain said. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
Moore denies allegations that he had sexual contact with the 14-year-old and that he pursued relationships with other teenage girls while he was in his 30s. “This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation,” his campaign said in a statement.
Republican senators have been slow to endorse Moore, with just five — including Cornyn — backing him so far. Moore espouses more extreme views than most U.S. senators, arguing that consensual sex between adults of the same gender should be outlawed and suggesting that the 9/11 attacks could have been punishment for the country distancing itself from God.
The judge made a trip to Washington at the end of last month to court senators, telling reporters in brief remarks that they weren’t telling the truth about him in their newspapers. “I don’t hate people,” he said.
It’s unclear what will happen to Moore’s candidacy if he seeks to pull out before the special election against Democrat Doug Jones. Alabama law appears to say that it is too late to replace his name on the ballot even if he files a notice of withdrawal. The state GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“At this point ballots have already been printed and absentee voting has begun in our 67 counties,” said Brent Beal, the deputy attorney general in Alabama’s secretary of state office. “Because of this, no change to the ballot can be made for the Dec. 12 election.”
—Gabby Kaufman contributed to this report.
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